U.S.-Russia-China Cooperation Could Hinder the Proliferation of Hypersonic Missiles, Reduce Risk of Strategic Wars
Sep 27, 2017
This report examines the implications of the proliferation of hypersonic missiles and possible measures to hinder it. This report first explores some of the potential strategic implications of the proliferation of hypersonic missile technology beyond the three major powers, the United States, Russia, and China. It then examines the process of such proliferation. And finally, it discusses possible means for hindering such proliferation.
Hindering the Spread of a New Class of Weapons
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Hypersonic missiles — specifically hypersonic glide vehicles and hypersonic cruise missiles — are a new class of threat because they are capable both of maneuvering and of flying faster than 5,000 kilometers per hour. These features enable such missiles to penetrate most missile defenses and to further compress the timelines for a response by a nation under attack.
Hypersonic missiles are being developed by the United States, Russia, and China. Their proliferation beyond these three could result in other powers setting their strategic forces on hair-trigger states of readiness. And such proliferation could enable other powers to more credibly threaten attacks on major powers.
The diffusion of hypersonic technology is under way in Europe, Japan, Australia, and India — with other nations beginning to explore such technology. Proliferation could cross multiple borders if hypersonic technology is offered on world markets.
There is probably less than a decade available to substantially hinder the potential proliferation of hypersonic missiles and associated technologies. To this end, the report recommends that (1) the United States, Russia, and China should agree not to export complete hypersonic missile systems or their major components and (2) the broader international community should establish controls on a wider range of hypersonic missile hardware and technology.
Introduction: What This Report Addresses
Strategic Consequences of Hypersonic Missile Proliferation
Ongoing Hypersonic Technology Proliferation
Hindering Hypersonic Missile Proliferation
The Hypersonic Flight Regime
Survey of Foreign Hypersonic Activity
Technical and Economic Barriers to Hypersonic Systems Development
Suggested Export Control List for Hypersonic Technologies
This report was prepared for the Carnegie Corporation of New York and conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center (ISDP) of the RAND National Defense Research Institute.
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